Step 1: Review How to Do Research
You may want to refresh your information literacy skills. Tutorials are available.
Step 2: Finding Information in Online Databases
Oxford Art is an encyclopedia with very good background information. Movements like Bauhaus and Postmodernism will be defined, sometimes in great detail. But don't expect every designer to be listed there. Sometimes a design-specific encyclopedia or biographical dictionary, such as Contemporary Designers located in the Reference section of the Library will include more.
The library does not subscribe to any databases that specifically covers design periodicals.
Art Source (aka Art Index) is an excellent database which broadly covers art and design periodicals. It's available through the link to Databases on all Library web pages. Other good databases to try are ProQuest and eLibrary.
Once you get a list of hits, look at them carefully. You can determine a lot simply by reading the titles. Sometimes you will see an indication about the content of the article, such as that it is an exhibition review. Obituaries are generally not critical, but they are often good summations of an artist's career. Ignore the book reviews and reproductions. Those won't help. Notice that the page numbers are listed. Longer articles will probably be more in-depth. Also, notice if there is an author listed. Reviews by known writers are preferable.
Many databases include "full-text" articles. Although originally published in print, it means that the actual article is reproduced there in plain text or a PDF version. Lucky you. You can read the articles on screen, email them to yourself, or print them.
One problematic aspect about databased articles is that you don't see them in the context of the full magazine. Unless you look at the actual original print version, you may have difficulty evaluating the publication. As design students, it's a good idea to become familiar with as many of these periodicals as you can, so do have a look at some of these magazines on the shelves.
Step 3: Locating Older Journal Articles
You should know by now that you won't always find everything online in full-text. Some databases have no full-text at all. When you need to locate the print version of a periodical, you can use the Otis collection of back issues, which includes hundreds of bound volumes. Some are in the Stacks and some in the Annex, which requires paging. Some databases have a link to the Otis holdings or OPAC. Or you can look in Library's Magazine Holdings List.
Step 4: Finding Books and Exhibition Catalogs
Use the OPAC to find exhibition catalogs and books about your artist or designer. Sometimes the Table of Contents will be included in the OPAC and there may be a chapter about your designer or movement. Search broadly at first by using the "keyword" search box.
An catalog, by definition, includes lists and images of works from a particular museum or gallery exhibition of the artist's work. They often include essays written by the curator or critics. It's probably an exhibition catalog if it is published by a gallery/museum and if the word "exhibitions" appears in the subject field. Sometimes the date of the exhibition appears in the title field.
Designers don't participate in exhibitions as much as artists do. The types of books you will find with information on designers will include yearbooks and annuals from professional organizations and chapters in books about design.
For a list of possible areas to browse, see also the pathfinder for the Product Design Program.
Step 5: Citing Sources
Once you've found everything and read it, you're ready to type up your bibliography. Use the categories described in Types of Information for your annotations. See Sample Annotations. Remember to use MLA style for the citation portion. More about Citing Sources here.
Step 6: Assistance Is Readily Available
The librarians and the library staff are your friends. Ask for reference or computer troubleshooting any time. The SRC also has tutors available to assist you with the writing of papers. Start early so that you will have time to avail yourself of these services. We all want to support your learning experience.